The Express Tribune Editorial 29 June 2020

A challenge of our own making

Can you imagine how Pakistan’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic would be different with functional local governments? While they may not have had too much influence on the overall strategy — or lack thereof — they could have made the implementation of whatever steps the Centre and provinces announced far more effective than reports suggest they are. There are accounts aplenty of residents and markets in Covid-19 hotspots flouting the so-called ‘smart lockdown’. With a proper bottom-up governance model, the authorities would have found it far easier to convince residents to stay safe for their own sake. Since local governments continue to be eyewash, it is only natural that residents view government instructions with more than healthy scepticism.
The issue goes far beyond the confines of the pandemic as well. There is no bridge right now between the leaders who sit in assemblies, and the people they supposedly represent. All that connects the two is a vote which, our history with elections tells us, may or may not exist in aether. Even if one were to believe that our electoral process has no irregularity whatsoever and is the best of its kind in the world, without functional local governments the entire exercise is no better than a popularity contest. What is even the point of democracy, thinkers would ask.
It is a tragedy that successive elected governments, for all their talk of democracy and its ideals, are themselves allergic to the idea of real and effective local governments. Perhaps when they speak of parliament being supreme, they end up believing that it should exist like Mount Olympus, disconnected from us mere mortals. The pandemic will one day leave us after it is done inflicting its toll. One would hope frantically that those that claim to lead us would spend at least some time to draw the lessons in the aftermath. That is all one can do with the hand we have been dealt.

 

 

A challenge of our own making

 

Can you imagine how Pakistan’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic would be different with functional local governments? While they may not have had too much influence on the overall strategy — or lack thereof — they could have made the implementation of whatever steps the Centre and provinces announced far more effective than reports suggest they are. There are accounts aplenty of residents and markets in Covid-19 hotspots flouting the so-called ‘smart lockdown’. With a proper bottom-up governance model, the authorities would have found it far easier to convince residents to stay safe for their own sake. Since local governments continue to be eyewash, it is only natural that residents view government instructions with more than healthy scepticism.
The issue goes far beyond the confines of the pandemic as well. There is no bridge right now between the leaders who sit in assemblies, and the people they supposedly represent. All that connects the two is a vote which, our history with elections tells us, may or may not exist in aether. Even if one were to believe that our electoral process has no irregularity whatsoever and is the best of its kind in the world, without functional local governments the entire exercise is no better than a popularity contest. What is even the point of democracy, thinkers would ask.
It is a tragedy that successive elected governments, for all their talk of democracy and its ideals, are themselves allergic to the idea of real and effective local governments. Perhaps when they speak of parliament being supreme, they end up believing that it should exist like Mount Olympus, disconnected from us mere mortals. The pandemic will one day leave us after it is done inflicting its toll. One would hope frantically that those that claim to lead us would spend at least some time

 

 

200,000 cases

 

Have we reached herd immunity? Or the results of our smart lockdown are coming faster than what science actually suggests? Or is there some fiddling with the figures going on behind the scenes? Or there is something else in technical terms that we are not aware of?
Whatever the case, the number of coronavirus infections in the country has had a significant fall over the last couple of days, according to official statistics. On June 20, the number of new cases of the lethal infection was 6,604. Since then, it’s been on a constant decline: 4951 on June 21, followed by 4471, 3946, 3892, 4044 and 2775 between June 22 and June 26. A fall in the number of tests being carried out daily — from about 30,000 on June 20 to 21,000 on June 26 — may well be one explanation for this decline in the infection. But then what would explain the fall in the cases in percentage terms? On June 20, around 22% of those tested for the contagion returned positive, while this percentage suffered a constant fall to reach around 13% on June 26.
Anyways, as things stand now, we have exceeded 200,000 cases to find a place among the only 12 countries of the world having hit this grim milestone. Besides, the number of deaths in our country from the deadly microbe has gone past 4,000 — a figure attained by just 20 countries in the world. Had the number of daily tests not been slashed, we would have been higher up the table in terms of the total number of infected cases. Speaking in the regional context, both our number of positive cases and the deaths are far higher than all our neighbouring countries, save for India.
The downward progression in the cases has, meanwhile, given Asad Umar the room to claim success of the government’s administrative measures, including smart lockdown in the virus-infested parts of several major cities and towns of the country as well as making the use of face masks compulsory at crowed places. However, Umar — a federal minister and the chair of the NCOC — has given no justification of why the number of daily tests has been nearly halved even though testing is central to the Covid containment strategy.

 

 

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